go! Platteland - - LETTERS -

When I think back to that small town in Blikoor­land where I started my teach­ing ca­reer, I re­mem­ber not only the Afrikaner cat­tle, camel thorns and sand storms, but also the quiet that de­scended on town on a Sun­day af­ter church.

Is this per­haps where the ex­pres­sion “as quiet as the grave” orig­i­nated? Where were the dogs that bark, the stray cat or the breeze to tem­per the in­ten­sity of the sun? To wish that “some­thing” would break the monotony of the quiet was to wish the snap­drag­ons in the gar­den would start breath­ing fire. And to walk around in the streets would seem like dis­turb­ing the quiet-of-the-grave­yard, that si­lence that made an ad­ven­tur­ous young teacher from the city just want to desert her post.

Well, the al­ter­na­tive was to look for ex­cite­ment on the gravel roads and dirt tracks of the district. My new col­league joined me, but even on those dirt tracks you even­tu­ally wished for a guinea fowl or a kori bus­tard to in­trude on the si­lence.

In a dip we no­ticed the white car next to the road. A blue light on the roof started to flash and a siren cut through the si­lence. Can you be­lieve it? A traf­fic cop on a Sun­day next to this dust-des­o­late road? I think the town’s only shade-tree cow­boy was only too happy to be able to flag down at least one car.

First the li­cences were checked, the car’s and mine, next came the tyre in­spec­tions. (Per­haps I should men­tion here that any per­son in uni­form makes me break out in a cold sweat, ever since my child­hood days.)

Next the lights: turn on the head­lights, dim, left front in­di­ca­tor, right rear in­di­ca­tor, left… For some­one whose left and right tend to be in­ter­change­able some days, it was ter­ri­fy­ing. I had to con­cen­trate hard! But when he bel­lowed, “brake lights… brake lights!”, I had a brain freeze. I couldn’t see an­other but­ton on the dash­board for this spe­cific light, so I asked, “Where do I switch them on?”

“Just put your foot on the brake!” the speed de­tec­tive snarled, not at all im­pressed with my stupid ques­tion.

I am one of those ed­u­ca­tors who be­lieve in set­ting a good ex­am­ple, so there was no fault to find with my car, but as I pulled away I ac­ci­den­tally touched that in­con­ve­niently lo­cated but­ton on the steer­ing wheel and hooted at the speed cop!

As for si­lence, the fol­low­ing few Sun­days were just as quiet, but I was busy: I spent my time get­ting the pas­sen­ger seat dry, spot­less and odour­less again, since my col­league’s un­con­trolled laugh­ter had taken its toll.

These days, I ap­pre­ci­ate a Sun­day-af­ter­noon nap and long for the Sun­day-af­ter­noon quiet of the plat­te­land. Blikoor, BLOEM­FONTEIN >

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